OK, here's the issue: the MLB schedule for the playoffs is odd.
You see, usually the schedule rotates the League Championship Series schedule. League 1 goes Tuesday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday-Tuesday-Wednesday; League 2 goes Wednesday-Thursday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday-Wednesday-Thursday. Last year, the ALCS had the early schedule, the NLCS had the later. In 2003, the NLCS had the earlier start, and the ALCS had the later.
The problem? This year the ALCS is the early schedule for the second year in a row.
How can The Monk tell? Because of the ALDS schedule: it's the same as 2004 - Tuesday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday for both matchups.
Why does this matter? Because since baseball went to a three-round playoff in 1995, the team from the league whose championship series ended earlier has won 8 of the 9 World Series (in one year the LCS ended the same date). The NL seems to have a complaint.
For more confusion, here's The Monk's predictions for the first round:
First, the Yankees will win if they get decent starting pitching. Is Mike Mussina able to provide that? Jury is still out. The Angels are the second-worst matchup for the Yanks in any series, other than the Red Sox, but are worse in a three-of-five series because they have something the RedSawx lack -- an outstanding bullpen. This could be the best of the four divisional series.
In the battle of the Sawx there should be anticlimaxes only. Ozzie Guillen claimed that the Indians are better than the RedSawx or Yanks before he tried to tank game one of Chicago's three-game season-ending series against Cleveland by sitting seven of his nine regular starters. But Chicago's starters thwarted Guillen's plans and Cleveland's hitters. Nonetheless, the Palehose's manager should regret his statement real quickly -- in four games or less. The WhiteSawx have no hitting, a funky closer situation and starters who have had career years. None of which translates to playoff success (three words: 2001 Seattle Mariners). The BloSax have two of the most dangerous hitters in the playoffs and they can flat-out hit good pitching (BTW, does it detract from Ortiz's MVP candidacy when Manny gets nearly the same average-homers-RBI? The Monk says yes), especially in Fenway. Just ask the Angels how quickly the Blosax can make a tight game a foregone conclusion.
In the NL, the Cardinals should be peeved: the set-up of their series with the Padres (Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday) allows the Pads to set a three-man rotation and definitely get Jake Peavy two starts on full rest in games 1 and 4. Then again, the Cards will have Chris Carpenter doing the same and he's the likely NL Cy Young winner. Given the talent and ability disparity, there shouldn't be a game four and the Cards should be well-rested for an NLCS rematch with . . .
. . . the Astros. Why? The 'Stros are getting some hitting from Jason Lane, Lance Berkman is back and the Astros have four things that the Braves lack answers for: Clemens, Pettitte, Oswalt and Lidge. It shows how good a manager Bobby Cox is that these Braves won 90 games. Yeah, it's repetitive, but 'Stros in four.